You think you have oily but dry skin? Think again.

There’s a beauty myth floating around out there that says oily skin can’t be dry and dry skin can’t be oily. Not true. In fact, some experts claim that the terms “oily” and “dry” are outdated since they don’t really represent what’s happening on your face. That’s why you might have been told your whole life that you have dry skin since you have flaky skin, but the truth maybe something else.

Before we dive in, here’s a glimpse of the top products that we will walk through later.


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Dermalogica Active Clay Cleanser (5.1 Fl Oz) Face Wash - Purifies Pores and Absorbs Excess Oils and Impurities for Smooth, Revitalized Skin Dermalogica Active Clay Cleanser (5.1 Fl Oz) Face Wash - Purifies Pores and... @ Amazon Amazon Prime
PCA SKIN Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Face Serum, Hydrating Face Serum, Helps Deliver 24-Hour Moisturization and Smooth Fine Lines and Wrinkles, 1 oz Pump PCA SKIN Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Face Serum, Hydrating Face Serum, Helps... @ Amazon Amazon Prime
Patchology 'Hydrate FlashMasque Facial Sheet Mask w/Hyaluronic Acid - Men & Women Face Masks Skincare Sheet for Moisturizing and Hydrating Skin in 5 Minutes - Best Face Sheets Moisturizer (4 Count) Patchology "Hydrate FlashMasque Facial Sheet Mask w/Hyaluronic Acid - Men &... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

Why does my skin look oily but feel dry?

Your skin is actually dehydrated, and it knows what it wants.

Your face contains a layer of oil and anhydrous skin cells that’s usually “moist” most of the time. When these cells become dry, they fall off your skin because their water content is low. This makes your face look oily but feel dry.

Why does dehydrated skin happen?

For some people, it’s a natural process that’s hard to avoid, but for others, it could be your improper skin care habits or specific factors.

When our skin is dehydrated it can feel tight and itchy but will appear oily. This unfortunate phenomenon occurs because when the skin isn’t properly moisturized, oil gland will start pumping out sebum to protect the skin’s barrier. The result is a shiny complexion that still feels parched.

Difference Between Dry and Dehydrated Skin

While skin can be easily dehydrated, it can also get oily from time to time. Dry skin is a skin type, just like oily or combination skin.  People with dry skin type lacks oils, or lipids, and show a more flaky, dry appearance. Oily skin types are prone to clogged pores and breakouts.

Here’s how you can tell: If you have dry skin, and you put on ointment or oil, your skin will usually feel oily. If you have dehydrated skin, then usually it won’t be the same.

Sometimes, your skin can feel dry even when it’s not because of a few factors:

  1. Your skin has limited moisture

  2. This is the most common reason skin feels dry. When a person feels “dry” on only a surface area, usually the cheeks, forehead, and nose, it means their skin is dehydrated and that their glands are not releasing ample amounts of oil as usual–possibly due to the fact that their skin is already oily.

  3. Medication

Some medications make your skin more dehydrated and this can lead to dry skin on your face. Generally, this is easy to identify. For instance, if you start using an acne medication or any other medication that contributes to dry skin, your skin can easily become dehydrated.

You should note dehydration can happen to any skin type, even normal skin.


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Symptoms if your skin is dry and oily

When you feel dry and oily, you may not be able to tell easily if your skin is really too dry or just dehydrated.

Try the pinch test.  Pinch a small amount of skin on your cheek and hold for a few seconds. If your skin snaps back, you’re likely not dehydrated. If it takes a few moments to bounce back, you’re likely dehydrated.

This test is not definitive but is a quick test.  You should also check yourself against the following symptoms.

Symptoms of dry skin:

  • You might feel your face is flaky.
  • Your face might feel a little itchy in some areas.
  • Your face might feel slightly red and irritated.
  • Your face might feel extra sensitive.
  • Your face might feel flaky even after using a moisturizing mask.
  • increased incidence of psoriasis, eczema, or dermatitis

Look for these signs that your skin may just be dehydrated:

  • You might feel that your face is tight after waking up.
  • You might find that your skin looks dull.
  • more sensitive fine lines and wrinkles

If you diagnose that your skin is truly dry and oily at the same time, then some would call this combination skin type. Combination skin here means that you may have wrinkles and fine lines at the same time as blackheads, acne, and other breakout issues associated with oily skin. The best example is only your T-zone is oily but the rest of your face feels tight, then you probably have combination skin.

What Should I Do?

  • Wash your face properly with the right cleanser

  • Your skin surface is like a sponge: It’s constantly absorbing something from the environment. If you want to prevent dry skin, then you need to wash your face properly.  If you do you can prevent your face from getting dehydrated.

    By that, we mean wash your face at the right times. Gentle washing in the morning, double cleansing at night after a day of wearing makeup are very important and crucial.

    You may want to check out our definitive guide on Best Skincare routines for day and night.

    But do not over-wash by going overboard.  Do not use a soap or cleanser that’s too strong for you, or use too much of the right cleanser, or wash your face too many times in a day when you don’t need it.  Otherwise, your face will dry up.

    Sale Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel for All Skin Types| Oil-Free Face Wash with Grapefruit & Papaya Extract | Remove Excess Oil & Surface Impurities 8 Fl Oz Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel for All Skin Types| Oil-Free Face Wash with... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

    Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel is ideal for oily skin because it is cooling and contains moisturizing elements to balance out oily skin. This gel cleanser also includes fruit enzymes and alpha hydroxy acid, which gently exfoliate impurities from the skin. You can try using micellar water to remove makeup, cleansing with this gel, and then following up with a light moisturizer.
    Dermalogica Active Clay Cleanser (5.1 Fl Oz) Face Wash - Purifies Pores and Absorbs Excess Oils and Impurities for Smooth, Revitalized Skin Dermalogica Active Clay Cleanser (5.1 Fl Oz) Face Wash - Purifies Pores and... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

    Dermalogica customer favorite Dermal Clay Cleanser has been discontinued but that’s ok as it has been replaced by this Active Clay Cleanser that’s even better. Dual-action AHA/Clay formula purifies pores. Kaolin Clay removes excess oil and Binchotan Charcoal absorbs impurities without the use of harsh acids. It helps balance skin, protect the skin’s natural lipid barrier, and promote a healthy complexion.

  • Use a hydrating toner

  • If you find your skin too oily, you should use a hydrating toner on your face before using moisturizer.  You can also use a hydrating lotion with a texture similar to a toner.

    Beilf Aqua Bomb Hydrating Toner | Natural Hyaluronic Acid Soothes Skin | Lady's Mantle, Antioxidants, Honey Suckle, Baobab | Daily Skincare Hydrates & Moisturizes | KBeauty Glow | 6.75 fl. oz. Beilf Aqua Bomb Hydrating Toner | Natural Hyaluronic Acid Soothes Skin | Lady's... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

    Beilf Aqua Bomb Hydrating Toner is a refreshing splash of hydration that nourishes your skin with natural ingredients. Formulated with sodium hyaluronate, soothing honeysuckle, and moisture-locking baobab, this water-based toner helps to provide your skin with lasting hydration. The lightweight formula also has a satisfying satin finish for a smoother, softer & healthier-looking complexion. Perfect companion for oily skin.
    Bioderma - Hydrabio - Tonic Lotion - Hydrating Facial Lotion - Climate Pledge Friendly - Face Lotion for Sensitive Dry Skin 8.45 Fl Oz (Pack of 1) Bioderma - Hydrabio - Tonic Lotion - Hydrating Facial Lotion - Climate Pledge... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

    Bioderma – Hydrabio-Tonic Lotion – for Dry and Oily Skin – Made in Bioderma laboratories, the Aquagenium patent in Hydrabio-Tonic Lotion helps to improve the natural moisturizing capacities of the skin. Use Bioderma Hydrabio-Tonic Lotion on dehydrated skin to clear it into a smooth and rejuvenated complexion.

  • Exfoliate about once a week

  • When you’re exfoliating, use a gentle exfoliator to help the cells shed easily without drying out your face.

    If we let dead skin builds up, it can diminish the absorption of moisturizers and make them less effective.

    Vinoclean Gentle Buffing Cream - 2.5 ounce Vinoclean Gentle Buffing Cream - 2.5 ounce @ Amazon

    The Caudalie Vinoclean gentle buffing cream gently sweeps away impurities and dead skin cells. It purifies and hydrates the skin without leaving a greasy residue. What’s more, it completely eliminates impurities while hydrating the skin – all due to its cleansing properties. This formula also soothes the skin, thanks to its soothing ingredients.
    Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant (2 Oz) Deep Pore Face Scrub - Powder Exfoliator that Gently Smoothes and Brightens Skin Fighting Triggers Known To Accelerate Skin Aging Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant (2 Oz) Deep Pore Face Scrub - Powder Exfoliator... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

    The Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant resurfacer smoothes your skin like never before, helping fight toxins and environmental triggers known to accelerate skin aging. The powder formula releases powerful enzymes and skin-smoothing alpha hydroxy acids to retexturize and cleanse for your smoothest skin ever by adsorbing environmental pollutants. This product combines all the benefits of a traditional resurfacer with cleansing for your smoothest skin ever.

  • Try a hydrating serum

  • If you’ve never used a serum before, try one of these excellent options.  Start with ones containing hyaluronic acid.  Hyaluronic acid is something our bodies naturally produce, but supplementing it in the form of serum will be really good to fight dehydration.

    PCA SKIN Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Face Serum, Hydrating Face Serum, Helps Deliver 24-Hour Moisturization and Smooth Fine Lines and Wrinkles, 1 oz Pump PCA SKIN Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Face Serum, Hydrating Face Serum, Helps... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

    Plump and firm skin on the surface of the skin with hyaluronic acid (HA) for increased hydration. At the same time, increase the skin’s own HA production, resulting in moisturized, plump skin from within. This PCA Hyaluronic Acid boosting serum is a smoothing blend of ingredients boosts deep, long-lasting hydration of the skin while also increasing its own production of HA.
    Glo Skin Beauty HA-Revive Hyaluronic Drops | Hydrating Serum, Boosts Moisture Levels for Refreshed, Radiant Skin (1 Fl Oz) Glo Skin Beauty HA-Revive Hyaluronic Drops | Hydrating Serum, Boosts Moisture... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

    Instantly nourish the skin with a shot of weightless, anti-aging hydration. Glo Skin’s innovative Beauty Daily hyaluronic acid serum will smooth and refine the surface of your skin while preventing dehydration and transepidermal water loss. A powerful humectant, hyaluronic acid will deliver critical moisture to your skin. Perfect for dehydrated skin.

  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

  • Using a moisturizer can greatly help, whether you have oily or combination skin type. Putting on a moisturizer with the right ingredients such as ceramide prevents your skin from losing moisture and keeps it hydrated. You can combat your “dehydrated but oily skin” by using a light moisturizer. Make sure you are putting on the moisturizer soon after the toner and serum.

    Dehydrated skin will absorb your moisturizer too quickly, especially the thicker ones. So you should use a light moisturizer that does not level out your skin.

    Sale Sunday Riley Ice Ceramide and Vitamin F Moisturizing Face Moisturizer Dry Skin Cream Sunday Riley Ice Ceramide and Vitamin F Moisturizing Face Moisturizer Dry Skin... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

    Rich but not heavy, this dual-action ceramide-enriched moisturizer replenishes the skin with lasting hydration and strengthens the skin’s natural moisture barrier. Replenishing the skin with Sunday Riley’s ceramide moisturizing cream improves dryness and reduces the appearance of skin sensitivity. Best for dry and sensitive skin types. The formula strengthens the skin’s natural moisture barrier against stressors that cause dry skin.

    EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer Lotion, Night Moisturizer for Face, Restores Skin Elasticity and Moisturizes and Repairs Skin Overnight, Safe for Sensitive Skin, Oil Free Formula, 1.7 oz Pump EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer Lotion, Night Moisturizer for Face,... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

    While you’re sleeping, Hyaluronic Acid, Oil-Free, Fragrance-Free, Noncomedogenic, Repairs and Restores Skin. This EltaMD PM Therapy facial moisturizer works to moisturize while it does a world of wonders for your skin. Niacinamide and antioxidants work to improve skin tone and color, while EltaMD PM Therapy is specially formulated to lock in moisture with ceramides and peptides.

  • Use the right makeup

  • The easiest thing you can do if you have dehydrated skin is to make sure you’re using the correct liquid foundation that matches your skin tone. In your selection of a foundation, makeup, and moisturizer, they should all be compatible with your skin type and each other.  In particular, a foundation that’s compatible with your skin and makeup makes your skin look natural, instead of making it look cakey.

    Go for a foundation with lighter coverage and make sure any makeup you should is non-comedogenic.

    Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Moisture Foundation Cool 013, 1 oz. Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Moisture Foundation Cool 013, 1 oz. @ Amazon Amazon Prime

    The Maifanshi foundation by Koh Gen Do boasts 60% encapsulated water, with which it becomes a hydrating, moisturizing foundation. Get the full-coverage of a cream foundation with the hydration and appearance of a sheer liquid product. With 80% plant-based moisturizing ingredients, this iconic red tube foundation makes your skin look perfect and natural.
    Dermablend Smooth Liquid Foundation with SPF 25, 25N Natural, 1 Fl. Oz. Dermablend Smooth Liquid Foundation with SPF 25, 25N Natural, 1 Fl. Oz. @ Amazon Amazon Prime

    This Multi-tasking liquid foundation makeup from Dermablend provides buildable coverage with sunscreen & all-day hydration. It’s smooth and creamy for seamless coverage with an even, natural finish. Dermatologist-tested. Fragrance-free. Allergy-tested. Non-comedogenic. Non-acnegenic. Sensitive skin tested makeup that provides full coverage for skin conditions including dry and oily skin.

  • Use less makeup

  • Even armed with the right type of makeup, it’s best to avoid using a lot of makeup on your face. The less you use, the less your face is going to look greasy.

    Go for natural-looking makeup that is easy to apply, doesn’t look too thick on your face, and is able to blend in nicely with the rest of your makeup.

  • Use the right makeup brushes

  • Another important part of makeup is finding makeup brushes that are appropriate for your skin type. When you know the ingredients used in a makeup brush and compare it with your skin type, you should know which brushes are best for you.

    Sale Koh Gen Do Foundation Brush Koh Gen Do Foundation Brush @ Amazon Amazon Prime

    This Koh Gen Do stipple brush is designed to be used with both pressed and loose face powder. Superior-grade, super soft synthetic bristles keep bacteria at bay, and the brush prevents product waste. The perfect accessory to go along with their foundation (above). Stipple and swish your way to seamless coverage with this versatile flat-head brush.
    This handy stipple brush is an ideal blending tool that can also be used on both pressed and loose powders.

  • Use hydrating masks

  • You should use a hydrating mask once a week to keep your face hydrated. It should not cause your skin to become flaky. If you use masks meant to target other issues that lack moisture, your skin may become dehydrated instead.

    Patchology 'Hydrate FlashMasque Facial Sheet Mask w/Hyaluronic Acid - Men & Women Face Masks Skincare Sheet for Moisturizing and Hydrating Skin in 5 Minutes - Best Face Sheets Moisturizer (4 Count) Patchology "Hydrate FlashMasque Facial Sheet Mask w/Hyaluronic Acid - Men &... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

    Skin that is dehydrated craves moisture and can quickly go from dewy and plump to dry, dull, and lifeless. That’s where Hydrate FlashMasque comes in: this short (5-minute), but powerful sheet mask helps your face get the moisture it needs from water-rich hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, and betaine. Whether you are using it in the winter or summertime, this hydrating masque can help revitalize your complexion.
    Masqueology Collagen Hydro Gel GoldMask, 0.98 Ounce (Pack of 12) Masqueology Collagen Hydro Gel GoldMask, 0.98 Ounce (Pack of 12) @ Amazon

    Keep your skin hydrated and revitalized with Masqueology’s Collgen Hydro Gel masks. This gold-infused mask contains collagen to fight fine lines and wrinkles. The gel consistency of this product feels soothing on the face, and the ingredients work together to soften the skin. Collagen is used for its anti-aging properties and to increase the elasticity of the skin. Gold improves the breakdown of collagen, and hydrating the skin helps better ingredient penetration.

  • Eat healthily

  • It’s also a good idea to boost your diet with omega-3s, zinc, calcium, and vitamins like such as Vitamin A. These nutrients will help strengthen your skin barriers and help skin regenerate itself faster if it’s damaged.

  • Drink water

  • For dehydrated skin, drinking lots of water is a must because it’s adding water into complexion from the inside of your body.

  • Skip alcohol in skin care products

  • To prevent dehydrated skin, stop using any skin care product on your face that may contain alcohol as it can dry up your face immensely.

  • Try a hydrating mist

  • There’s nothing quite like a hydrating mist for a quick pick-me-up during the day.  Read our recommendations for hydrating mists.

    Dehydrated acne prone skin

    If our skin is oily, then acne becomes a very common outcome. People who have a tendency to be oily may also have more breakouts. When your face is oily, your sebaceous gland produces too much oil. Sometimes, the excess sebum will mix with dead skin cells and cellular debris to form large, white “zits” or papules.

    Skin cells are meant to carry lots of water, so if your face is dehydrated, some of the water in the skin might be excreted without your body knowing what to do with it. This can trigger acne-like symptoms.

    So if you fall into the oily but dehydrated skin type, it’s highly recommended that you use a really good moisturizer to protect your face against acne and other skin problems that are bound to happen.

    How to address seasonal dehydration

    Cold weather in the winter can have adverse effects on the health and appearance of your skin. In fact, cold, low humidity air dries out your skin and makes it itchy and cracked. It also makes your pores appear smaller, which can affect circulation, clog pores, and reduce sebum production.
    Temperature changes can really affect the way your skin looks and behaves. So make sure you have a different skincare regimen in the winter months to soothe your weather-worn skin. But do remember no matter the weather or your skin type, you must still incorporate a good moisturizer in your skincare routine.

    Final Take

    The best way to address any skin condition is to find a consistent skincare routine that works for you, and to stick to it.

    Questions and Answers

    Do I still need to moisturize if I have oily skin?

    Absolutely.  It’s super important to moisturize oily skin.  You can use a thicker moisturizer if you like. If you have to use a carrier oil cream, then choose one that’s easily absorbed.

    A moisturizer with an oil absorption rate of 10-20% is perfect for people with oily dehydrated skin or even sensitive skin. It should be oil-absorbing and oil-releasing at the same time. It should also not leave a face-whitish stain that can harm your skin or skin structure because leaving a mask-like texture on your face will dry your dehydrated skin even further.

    Beauty Editor

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    About our Chief Editor


    A passionate beauty specialist and blogger with a deep love for skincare and wellness. More about me here.

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